Is Ping-Pong the Best Social Connector in an Office?

Posted by jcashman

Here I am, staring at the big board below.  Sure looks like a March Madness bracket for the NCAA Tourney.  But it’s August — what’s up with that?  Well, I give you the W2 Group Ping-Pong Tourney, with 78 employees from Digital Influence Group, Racepoint Group, and the corporate team.  That’s right, 78 people.

And we’re off.  We’ve got play-in games, seedings (self-reported skill levels, adjusted based on in-person conversations), and a calendar.  We’ve got a ridiculously organized and passionate tourney chair, who happens to be our CFO, which means that some people were “encouraged” to participate under threat of not getting regular paychecks.  (Ok, just kidding — mostly).

Since we’ve recently moved to Boston, as you probably know from prior posts, all three groups in the W2 Group family are now on the same floor — vs. in Waltham, where we were split between two floors.  While you wouldn’t think that would be such a big thing, there are now multiple occurrences during the day when you cross paths with someone from another agency.  The strategically located conference rooms, Kitchen, coffee maker, and multi-purpose room fuel those encounters.

But something different is happening with the ping-pong tournament.  The buzz is at a record high, and everybody has rallied around the same topic.  There’s a daily chatter in common areas, a little bit of smack talk has been heard, and that familiar clack-clack-clack sound of ball-meeting-table is omnipresent.

This is now the third company I’ve worked at where a ping-pong table has been purchased, has been the center of attention, and has fueled wonderful interactions, both casual games and a more competitive tournament.  Want to know why?  Here are five reasons why it truly may be the best addition to any office.

It’s inviting

That green table, sitting right there, with paddles and a ball resting underneath one of them.  As you walk by, you almost have to pick it up.  A quick look around, and your eyes connect with someone else looking at the table.   A quick glance at your smartphone to check the time or your calendar, accompanied by the “ok, maybe just 5 minutes” comment.  Too late — you’re sucked in.

It’s easy

You don’t really need to know all the rules, and it’s intuitive.  Hit the ball over the net, and keep going until someone messes up.  While there are tons of variations in terms of the length of the game, tiebreakers, ways to hold the paddle, and even the serves, it’s still easy enough for a 4 year old — so it must be approachable for everybody else.

It accepts all skill levels

Yup, we have some serious players.  And I would suspect the final half dozen matches will be fantastically competitive.  But our early rounds are filled with beginners or those who only played at college parties.  And if you’ve stepped up to that table, there’s a great chance you had fun.  In fact, you discover some different approaches to the game, like how to hold the paddle and what shoes to wear (still amazed at those high-heel shoes staying on one person, with no ankle injury).

It’s watchable

Walk by a game in progress.  And I challenge you to not pause at all, and not watch the point to completion.  The better the game, the more people will stop and watch.  We’ve had casual games with 10-15 people watching.  It’s as easy to watch as it is to play; in fact, almost easier.

You gotta smile

Watch two experts play.  It’s amazing.  Oohs and aahs around some of the points.  Watch two people play who just started.  They’re laughing, and I guarantee you’ll be laughing.  Play some doubles on a Friday afternoon, and you’ll have a dozen spectators.  Get some food and drink, and you’ll have a nice little gathering.  It breaks up the pace of the day, and there are always laughs.  And memorable comments, several of which cannot be printed here.


All in all, that ping-pong table is one of the best items we’ve purchased for the new space.  As the tournament kicks into high gear, stay tuned.  More pictures, video, and commentary will follow.  I’m sure of it.

Because it’s simply the best social connector we have in the office.

Here’s a video compiling the best shots from 2011, for your viewing pleasure.  Not sure any of our points from the tournament will make their way into the 2012 summary.

to read more of Glenn Engler’s thoughts….click here.

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Posted by jcashman on Aug 29 2012. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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